Proverbs 22 The Right Circle Part 2

Proverbs 22 lists the various people who are seen as favorable and unfavorable in the eyes of God. I first mentioned some types of people that one should avoid if one wants to be successful in track and field. Track and Field is seen as a solo sport. We compete for ourselves and sometimes train by ourselves. However, the circle of people we surround ourselves with, including our coaches, trainers, training partners, and supporters, influence our success.

Proverbs 22 describes the type of people we should look for to be in our circle and the type of people we should be. Proverbs 22:3 mentioned the prudent man who foresees evil and avoids it. Not only should we be prudent, but we should be around prudent people as well. First, no one knows ourselves better than us. We know our addictions and we know the problems we cause ourselves. As an athlete, I know my problem is laziness. I could sleep all day if possible, but sleeping all day doesn’t allow me to speak about how God has blessed me through track and field. Being prudent is avoiding the things the deter me from working my hardest in track and field. To combat my laziness, I make sure to avoid the voices in my head telling me to just sleep. I make the conscious effort to go out and be productive and challenge myself physically. Being around prudent people who know your sins is important too. There should be someone we trust to be honest with some of our problems. That way, when that person knows you are in trouble or falling back to old bad habits, they can help you find a better path to happiness. A prudent person thinks ahead.

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Proverbs 22:9 talks about being a generous person. Running unattached has taught me the power of generosity. Although I am excited to run unattached, it is difficult to lose some of the benefits of being an undergraduate student-athlete. I miss the days where we received  new gear every year. I miss the days where I had a locker to leave my stuff. I am blessed to have former teammates who help me out when they can. If I need a swipe into the dining hall, they are there. If I need to leave my bag in the corner of the locker room, they won’t touch it. These may be small instances of kindness, but they make my days much easier. As I progress in track and in life, I hope to gain new benefits that I can share with others. Maybe even one day be able to afford the generosity that LeBron James has paid towards youth with his foundation and paying millions for children’s college tuition.

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Proverbs 22:17 mentions sayings from the wise. This verse, as all the others, can be looked at much more in depth than I will look at it for this post. I spoke about the importance of being wise in track and field, but it is important to listen to those who are wise. The verse says to “bow down thy hear.” To me, I read that as an act of humility. It does not matter who we are, and track specifically, it does not matter where we are in our track careers whether we are Olympians or new to the sport. There is an older athlete or a coach who has been in our shoes and some of our experiences and can give us necessary knowledge to get through this phase in our lives. Often times the wisdom stays with us and like this picture of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the person sticks with us and watches us grow.

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Proverbs 22:29, the final verse of Proverbs 22, writes “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings. He shall not stand before mean men.” It wasn’t until today, before church, as I scrolled through my Instagram, I reached a small epiphany. I noticed post after post were pictures and comments of great athletes including Sanya Richards Ross, Ajee Wilson and Maz Okoro doing training activities similar to what I do in practice or hanging out with other people I know. Post after post were pictures and videos of nationally ranked collegiate athletes I have met running great openers for the indoor season. Then in church, I sat between my coach, Coach Clark, who has coached numerous sub two minute runners and Chanelle Price, a world class mid distant runner. As I sat there, I realized I was among kings. By no means am I at these elite runners’ level yet, but my circle of associates and people I follow in social media have become the very people that I aspire to be. It took years of injuries and hard workouts to get to where I am, and it will take that same effort and more to keep achieving. What I am saying is remain diligent in your work. Remain focused on the vision God gave you. When you work hard enough, you tend to attract others like you.

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Proverbs 22 The Right Circle Part 1

As I scroll through my Facebook, I glance at the various accomplishments that my peers from Villanova University have achieved since I left my junior year. One person I enjoy following is a man named Kevin Monangai. He was in my graduating class. He also played football for Villanova University. We are not close. We were just two wildcats who rolled in similar circles.

So why would I follow someone I am not that close with? Well if you do not know Villanova University, it is known for basketball and at the time I was a student, the football team struggled. Yet, Kevin constantly posted about the strength of his team and his Nova pride. After graduating he posted about being scouted for the NFL. Because Villanova is not known for football, you wouldn’t think someone coming from a small team would even think about going pro. Yet, this man worked hard and is now with the Philly Eagles.

I don’t know if Kevin thinks of his story as an underdog story, but following his posts, that’s what I see as someone who sees herself as an underdog. His success continues to inspire to continue my goal in being an elite runner and using where I came from in terms of athleticism as motivation.

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So that was a long introduction to a simple verse. As I scrolled through my timeline I came across a post from Kevin Monangai with the verse Proverbs 22:29 “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”

I read the rest of Proverbs 22 to get some context and see the general theme. I want to focus on for this post with my track mind is to make sure you avoid the wrong people, and in track you meet a lot of “mean men.” These people will discourage you, sabotage your work and drag your name through the mud.

Proverbs 22 names some of those people. Verse 10 mentions the scoffer or mocker. In track there is always someone who got something to say. No matter how hard you work or how great you improve, there will be someone who say you won’t improve or you are foolish for thinking differently from them. You can fight all you want and drive yourself mad trying to prove yourself to a scoffer but a scoffer is going to find something to scoff. It is 2016, perfect time to do some soul cleaning and rid yourself of negative energy. Wasting your time fighting with someone who doesn’t value your hard work doesn’t benefit you. In track, I learn to very politely ignore certain people and move on.

Verse 13 mentions the lazy man. My one track mind thinks of the lazy person as someone who accepts defeat. While the scoffer weigh you down with insults. The lazy man weighs you down by making you willing to accept what life has given you. Staying stagnant is just as bad as moving backwards. In track, when you work hard, you improve. When you improve, your goals change. Do not let laziness and discouragement stop you from achieving your goals. Track is a trying sport and a sport that you can’t rely on the efforts of others. Laziness always shows at some point.

Verse 14 talks about an adulterous woman. Lets talk about adulterers male and female. Man! Sex or passionate infatuation or just the general desire to be loved by anyone can drive anyone up and down the walls and more dangerously, off track from your goals. Sometimes it’s another person who drags you down by first building your ego while tearing down your morals or making you forget your goals. Many times you are your own adulterer. Yes I just went there. Yes, you can cheat on your goals and morals. My high school summer coach tells me “track is a jealous sport.” You got to give it your all. Getting caught with brief moments of satisfaction will make your goals seem that much further. I cheated on my goals with someone I liked. I’ll talk more about this man in future posts, but there were too many times I chose laying next to him over going to church or doing proper rehab. The sad thing was, he wasn’t willing to give up the same amount of time for me.

We like to think we are immune to negative people, but the truth of the matter is we are human and the desire to get or give human attention causes us to forget our immunity. It’s just important to avoid being with people who make you feel bad about your ambitions and yourself. As you find yourself being more successful, your circle will shrink. It’s cliche to say but so accurate. Be confident in your gifts and the vision God has given you for your future.

 

 

Job 1 For The Injury Prone

I would be shocked if I ever met an athlete who was competitive but has never had an injury. Part of the struggle of being an elite athlete is balancing pushing your body to the limit and pushing it past it’s breaking point. Although that line is clear, it is incredibly  thin. We learn key actions to prevent injuries which include knowing how to properly warm up, cool down, eat properly and train. However, even with great injury prevention, some injuries are inevitable.

Lets take Derek Redmond, the British runner whose career included various injuries despite being a world class athlete. Injuries can come at the worst time but leave an impact on both the athlete and the audience’s lives. Take the ’92 Barcelona Olympics where Derek Redmond unfortunately got injured during his race. Although a tragic moment for any athlete, it is remembered as one of the Olympics great moments that showed such determination that a even a runner born in ’94 know his story.

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So why the book of Job? Well, Job was a man whose faith was tested after a series of tragedies from losing his wealth to his family. At church, my Pastor focused on Job 1. My pastor gave insight on this book that has helped me understand my track career and handling injuries.

What I took from my pastor’s sermon is we’ve been through hardships before and made it through. Take Job 1:20-21 “Job 1:20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” My pastor reminded me that there was a time when I didn’t have the blessings I had so when I lose something I should not worry because I’ve been at that point before.

After two stress reactions in my foot, a hamstring injury, hip flexor problems, muscle tightness, and other injuries I’m probably blocking out of my mind, I am learning to remain calm when my body doesn’t act right. I have been through it all before and have made it through. Track like anything in life has no stairway to success. Even the current great runners like Sanya Richards Ross, Allyson Felix and Chanelle Price have had injuries that have slowed them down.

Sometimes, like Job, when things look bleak, you just need to go to God. And when God’s plan seems to make no sense, just remeber God’s plan is never wrong. Every injury is meant to happen for some reason. We just need to take care of ourselves until it all makes sense. Our injuries can introduce us to great people. For example, my injuries brought me closer to my athletic trainers. Our injuries lead to great stories that are remembered. Our injuries make us smarter athletes. They make us teachers. Our injuries suck at the time we get them, but God’s greater plan is worth taking the time to discover.

Proverbs 8:14 For the Strong Athletes

I’m no saint but I do make the effort to go to church. This past Sunday, my Pastor based his sermon off of Proverb 8:14 “Council is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.” There were so many great insights my pastor showed the church from this verse. I am excited to apply what I’ve learned to my track and field career.

“Council is mine”

First I learned that the knowledge we need to succeed is already with us. After 8 years of running, the knowledge I need to perform my best is already in me. There is so much to know in track and field so for this post I’ll use my top 5.
1. Track is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Track unlike other sports is a solo sport where you have to push yourself.
2. Track is a jealous sport. If you don’t give it your all you won’t get much out of it.
3. You are your own competition.
4. Warming up and cooling down are just as important as the workout.
5. When something is hurting, it’s okay to stop.

“And sound wisom”

My pastor defined this as knowing how you feel. He also differentiates between intellect and wisdom. There are a lot of intellectual people in track and field. Experienced coaches and athletes will tell you or try to persuade you to run a certain way or what times you should pursue or where your career should go. I know from experience coaches have told me I would not be as fast as other runners but I know God instilled in me a passion and drive unique that will help me succeed. When my summer track coach told me I should not go to a DI school for college, I worked my way from a walk on at Villanova University, a DI school with a strong history in track and field, to being an All American with a full scholarship at the University of Connecticut, another great DI school. It is wisdom, understanding yourself and what God drives you to do that should have the last word. Too many times in track, the rational thing to happen does not. The one who was the favorite to win doesn’t win or someone of a certain body type should be competing in a certain event but excels in another. Success comes with doing what feels right and when intellect and feeling combine correctly, that is knowing the different ways of training and knowing what feels right for you, is when an athlete is wise.

“I am understanding”

My pastor explained this to mean being a representative of God. When people look at you, they should know there is a God. It is a blessing to be an athlete. The ability not only to walk and move is a blessing but to do so in a way that inspires others, allows you to travel, allows you to meet others and help you financially is a blessing that should be shared with others. As an athlete, you are in the spotlight more than others. People are watching your progress and how you hold yourself on and off the track. To be a representative of God, you need to perform with confidence and win or lose, carry yourself with humility and optimisim.

“I have strength”

My pastor explained a lot in this part. I learned the last word of a line in Hebrew poetry is the most important. Because strength is the last word of the verse, it is the focus of the verse. This verse is meant to explain how one gets strength, by having knowledge, wisdom, and being a representative of God. Strength is so important in athletics. Of course an athlete needs to be physically strong, but to compete to your best, you must be strong in your mind.
The pastor acknowledged the structure of the verse and related it to God. God is at the beginning giving you the knowledge you need to succeed and at the end giving you strength. This is appropriate to talk about for 2016. It’s a new year and there may already be questions on what is the next move in your life. Just remember God guided you to the end of 2015 and is there for you in 2016. Sometimes you need to focus on being positive rather than what’s going to happen next because God already has His end goal planned for you.